Life-Study of Joshua, Judges & Ruthby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
As we begin the life-study of Judges, I have the burden to speak a word concerning the intrinsic significance of this book.
In order to understand the history in the Old Testament, we need the full scope of the Scriptures. If we read the Old Testament according to this full scope, we will realize that at Mount Sinai God married Israel. In His concept and desire, He wanted to be to Israel as a husband to a wife, and He expected Israel to act as a wife toward Him. We need to keep this point in mind as we read the book of Judges.
In writing the books of history, Samuel put Judges after Joshua to show us what kind of life Israel lived toward her Husband. For some reason, she did not have a heart to be the wife of Jehovah. As a wife, she forgot her Husband, left her Husband, and acted according to her own desires. Eventually, Israel became a harlot. At the time of Hosea, Israel was a harlot in the eyes of God (Hosea 1:2; 2:2). Having fallen into the sin of adultery, she did not have a definite husband. In addition to Jehovah as her Husband, she had many other men. This was the situation of Israel in the book of Judges. In the book of Judges there is a terrible picture of a wife forsaking her Husband and not even acknowledging His existence. This is an ugly picture of a harlot, a wife who forsook her Husband and went after idols.
In the beginning Israel had a bridal love toward God, but after her marriage she lost her position as a chaste wife to her husband. She forsook God and went to idols. Every idol was a “man,” and Israel became full of idols. Jeremiah 11:13 says that according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem the people had set up altars to burn incense to their idols. Ezekiel 16:24 tells us that Israel made “a high place in every street.” This means that there was an idol on every street. This corresponds to the New Testament, which shows us another great harlot in Revelation 17, the Roman Catholic Church, which is the mother of many harlots. Since the mother of the harlots is the apostate Roman Church, the harlots, the daughters of the apostate church, must be all the sects and groups in Christianity that hold to some extent the teachings, practices, and traditions of the apostate Roman Church.
In the book of Judges, a particular saying is repeated a number of times: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did that which was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). But God was the King! According to the principle in the Bible, the husband is the head of the marriage and the head of the family. In creation God ordained that the man would have this authority; therefore, he also has the kingship. In typology and in figure, God is the unique man. We all are females because we, the church, are the corporate wife to Christ. Since God is our Creator and our Lord, He should also be our King.
When Israel said that there was no king among them, this meant that they had annulled God and His status. In the book of 1 Samuel, the children of Israel asked God to appoint a king for them (8:5). This was a great offense to God (v. 7). Even though Israel was a wife to God, she became a harlot. She did not recognize God’s kingship, and she did not recognize God as her Husband. Therefore, the children of Israel did what was right in their own eyes, and as a result they became rotten and corrupted.
This is what we see in the book of Judges. The history in this book is thus a history of rottenness. After the story of Judah and Caleb in 1:1-20, Israel’s history as recorded in Judges was full of the rottenness and corruption of a harlot. This is the intrinsic significance of the book of Judges.
I would now like to give a brief introductory word to our study of Judges.
We need to see the contrast between the books of Joshua and Judges. Joshua is the book of Israel’s history full of the marvelous victories over the inhabitants of Canaan in the presence of Jehovah. Judges, on the contrary, is the book of Israel’s history full of miserable defeats under their enemies in the forsaking of Jehovah.
The writer of the book of Judges probably was Samuel. Many expositors of the Scriptures hold this view.
The time covered in Judges comprises about 305 years, from about 1425 B.C. (after Joshua’s death—1:1) to 1120 B.C. (at the death of Samson—16:30-31; cf. Acts 13:19-20). The following list is the chronological sequence according to history:
|5.||Chs. 17—21||"||1406 B.C.|
|6.||2:14—16:31||"||? -1120 B.C.|
The place of Judges was Canaan.
The content of Judges consists of the children of Israel trusting in God, forsaking God, being defeated by their enemies, being delivered through the judges, and becoming corrupted (1:1-2; 2:11—3:11). When the children of Israel, who had trusted in God, forsook God, they were defeated by their enemies. Because of their miserable situation, they repented, and the Lord mercifully raised up judges to deliver them. However, after the children of Israel were delivered, they became corrupted. All this became a cycle that was repeated over and over in Judges.
The central thought of the book of Judges is that Israel forsook God, suffered defeat by their enemies, and became rotten; and since there was no king among them, everyone did that which was right in his own eyes (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).
The book of Judges has three sections: Israel’s trusting in God (1:1—2:5); Israel’s forsaking of God (comprising their suffering of defeats, their repentance, and God’s deliverance (2:6—16:31); and Israel’s becoming corrupted (17:1—21:25).
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